What a party has to say about the right to life is relevant to anyone who takes civic responsibility seriously. Here is what the two major American parties have to say on the subject, in their most recently-issued platforms (2012). This is not to be confused with what an individual candidate might say, which might be enough to make me ask “so why are you running with THAT party?”
First, the Democrats. The full platform is at this link. [Note: link is broken as of April 2015. Current Democratic web site is democrats.org.] While the platform addresses many rights at length, the right to life is not mentioned. “Right to choose” gets the ink.
Protecting A Woman’s Right to Choose. The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.
The Republican party takes a different approach (full platform here).
Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions – gender discrimination in its most lethal form – and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.
Each state’s GOP has its own platform. New Hampshire’s, for example, has this to say about the right to life:
Support the unborn child’s fundamental right to life and implement all possible legal protections; encourage individuals and organizations who provide alternatives to abortion by meeting the needs of mothers through adoption, support, counseling and educational services; require parental consent for minors seeking abortions, ban the use of public resources to fund or promote abortion, appoint judges who respect traditional families values and the sanctity of innocent life, and support similar efforts at the federal level; oppose euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.
In recent years, Democratic candidates have been remarkably consistent in their support for abortion, while Republicans can be all over the place. A Republican voter can be forgiven for assuming a Republican candidate is pro-life (after all, the platform’s pretty clear), but verifying that with the candidate is always a good idea.